Mormonism and doctrine/Rapture and LDS theology
Join us for the 2016 FairMormon Conference on August 4 and 5 in Provo, Utah
Do Latter-day Saints believe in the "rapture"?
What is the "Rapture"? Do Latter-day Saints believe in this or a similar doctrine?
Modern revelation makes it clear that the saints will remain on the earth through the tribulation period until Christ's coming and those who are old or in the grave shall be changed to a resurrected state at that time. Younger saints will grow old and be changed in an instant at one hundred years of age (Isaiah 65:20; DC 101:30-31) to inherit a glorious resurrection with God and Christ.
This question deals with a unique Protestant belief which is being disputed by various factions today. Because the concept of a "rapture" is not universally accepted among Christians and is not understood by many, it is appropriate to start by first defining the term.
Origin of the term and concept
The word rapture is said to come from a Latin translation of the Greek word harpazo which is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Harpazo is translated in English as "caught up." The term rapture as it is used by orthodox Protestants is based on a belief that, when Christ comes, he will instantly catch up all living believers to meet him in the air and translate them into immortal bodies without experiencing physical death. It is further believed that those who are caught up will be miraculously taken away from tribulations to be with the Lord in heaven. LDS scripture presents a different picture especially on this last point.
Source and scriptural support for Protestant belief
Protestant belief in the rapture is based on Matthew 24:31,39-42; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10. Although other scriptures might also be applied to this event, their relationship is often questioned even among Protestants. There is also disagreement regarding the rapture's timing in relation to the tribulation period spoken of in Matthew 24:21,29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:9-26, and Revelation 7:14. According to orthodox Protestant eschatology, the tribulation period will last seven years (two periods of 3 1/2 years; see Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7,11; Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 12:6,14; Revelation 13:5). Daniel 9:27 is usually cited in support of this conclusion but Revelation 2:10 provides another figure (10 days or years).
Theories on timing of the Rapture in Protestant theology
Three or four theories have been suggested concerning the timing of the rapture. Those who hold that believers will be caught up before the tribulation period, to be with Christ in heaven and to return with him at the end of this period, are called "pre-tribulationists." Those who believe that the church will go through the tribulation and be caught up at the end of this period are called "post-tribulationists." Those who believe that the church will go through half of the tribulation period (three and one-half years) before being caught up are referred to as "mid-tribulationists." If this were not enough, there is also a fourth interpretation commonly called the "partial rapture view" which holds that only some believers will be taken up at one or more points during the tribulation period.
All of these theories are of recent origin having been developed in the last two hundred years. Modern revelation received through the Prophet Joseph Smith contains answers to these and other similar questions and would settle these arguments if accepted; unfortunately, many are "ever learning and [yet] never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). Although the Bible has clearly not been sufficient to settle this problem, it does provide a great deal of information on this subject.
LDS view: Biblical and modern revelation
The gospels alone provide more information than can be considered in a brief discussion on this subject. To keep this answer short, we will only consider the timing of Christ's coming and the gathering of believers in relation to the tribulation period. Matthew tells us that:
- Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened... And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect..." (Matthew 24:29-31).
Mark likewise tells us:
- after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened... And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost parts of the earth..." (Mark 13:24,26-27).
Although Luke does not use the word tribulation, he describes these events in the same order (see Luke 21:25-27). In each case, the second coming follows the tribulation and the gathering of the elect follows his coming. Not only is there no mention of Christ's appearance before or during this tribulation period, but believers are warned by all three writers that false Christs will appear to deceive many (Matthew 24:5,23-24; Mark 13:6,21-22; Luke 21:8). None of these accounts hints at multiple returns of the Savior.
Other New Testament scriptures
The remainder of the New Testament reinforces the concept that the saints will not be spared tribulations. Paul told the Thessalonian saints, ."..when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation" (1 Thessalonians:3). In a second epistle he stated, "we ourselves glory in... your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure" (2 Thessalonians 1:4). He taught other saints that, "we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience" (Romans 5:3) and "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). Matthew quotes Christ as saying that except the "great tribulation" were "shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matthew 24:21-22). This is also the theme of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30,36-52).
John the Revelator also makes it clear that the saints will pass through the tribulation period prior to Christ's coming. In Revelation 7:13-14 an elder asked John, "What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And [John] said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." John goes on to speak in chapter 13 of the period in which the beast would reign (42 months or 3 1/2 years - Revelation 13:5). During this period we are told that, "it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them" (Revelation 13:7). Directly following this, Christ comes with his elect to Mount Zion (Revelation 14:1) and in the clouds to execute judgment (Revelation 14:15-16). Note that in chapters 14 through 19 the Lord executes judgment. Chapter 15 speaks of the exaltation of the just who "had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name" (Revelation 15:2; compare Revelation 13:7,15-17). Chapters 16 through 19 detail the "wrath of God" poured out upon the wicked (Revelation 16:1) and at the end of chapter 19 the beast is defeated by Christ (Revelation 19:20-21).
We must remember the beast's reign was previously identified as 42 months or three and one-half years (Revelation 13:5), and this seems to be the last half of the tribulation period. This is therefore further confirmation that these chapters describe events at the end of the tribulation. Compare also Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7; Zechariah 13:8-9; Malachi 3:2,5-6; Malachi 4:1-3; Revelation 20:1-7 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16; and Revelation 12:14 with Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 13:5.
Joseph Smith and modern revelation
Joseph Smith's inspired revision of Matthew 24 informs us that the great tribulation will be "on the Jews and the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (JS-M 1:18) and "after the tribulation of those days... they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven... and he shall send his angels before him with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together the remainder of his elect" (JS-M 1:36-37). DC 29:8 tells us that the "tribulation and desolation shall be upon the wicked," but Joseph Smith added that, "it is a false idea that the Saints will escape all judgment whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer, and the righteous shall hardly escape [DC 63:34], still many of the Saints will escape..."
Doctrine and Covenants section 63 provides us with additional insight regarding these events and also explains the LDS belief concerning the translation of believers at the coming of Christ. It states that,
- the saints also shall hardly escape; nevertheless, I, the Lord, am with them, and will come down in heaven from the presence of the Father and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire... he that liveth when the Lord shall come, and hath kept the faith, blessed is he; nevertheless, it is appointed to him to die at the age of a man [100 years - Isaiah 65:20]. Wherefore, children shall grow up until they become old; old men shall die; but they shall not sleep in the dust, but they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye" (D&C 63:34,50-51).
It also states that "in the day of the coming of the Son of Man... cometh an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked" (D&C 63:53-54)—not before!
Again in D&C section 88 the Lord warns, "prepare the saints for the hour of judgment which is to come; that their souls may escape the wrath of God, the desolation of abomination which awaits the wicked both in this world and in the world to come" (DC 88:84-85). "And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—They are Christ's, the first fruits [of the resurrection], and they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him... (D&C 88:96-98).
Thus begins the resurrection of the just and the millennial reign of Christ on the earth (see DC 88:99-101; Revelation 20:4-6). Those who are caught up are not taken into heaven but reign "with Christ a thousand years" on the earth. Thereafter, "they shall reign for ever and ever" with him (Revelation 22:4-5).
- This wiki article text originally came from Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995) (now published by Cedar Fort Publisher: Springville, UT, 2004), Question 76. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. ISBN 0882907786.. Because of the nature of a wiki project, it may have since been modified by other authors. FAIR attempts to reflect LDS doctrine to the best of our ability. Because different groups should have the right to speak for themselves, if the reader wishes to know how a specific Christian denomination views the Rapture, they should seek information from the denomination or its adherents directly.
- Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 162. off-site
- (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4-6; see also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 318. off-site